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Who has never wondered this, at one time or another?
If you could do it all over again, would you?
For the Giants, regarding the franchise-shaking decision to trade away Odell Beckham Jr., the answer is yes. Yes. Yes.
Why revisit this? The mega-deal went down March 11, 2019, so there is no pending anniversary at work here. The Giants, though, do face the Browns on Sunday night, and even though Beckham is on injured reserve mending from surgery to repair a torn left anterior cruciate ligament, his presence, if not physically, will be hovering around empty MetLife Stadium, because so much of OBJ was always OMG.
By now, the trade is imprinted on the soul of everyone who bleeds blue and lives and dies (emotionally speaking) with the Giants. Beckham, the wondrous wide receiver, sent to Cleveland for one player — safety Jabrill Peppers — and two 2019 draft picks. With the No. 17-overall pick, the Giants took Dexter Lawrence, a massive defensive tackle from Clemson. With the 95th-overall pick, late in the third round, the Giants took Oshane Ximines, a pass-rush prospect from Old Dominion.
With nearly two full seasons of evidence, the trade looks lopsided.
“There’s no question in my mind the Giants got the best of that deal,” Dan Shonka, general manager and national scout at Ourlads’ Scouting Services, told The Post.
Inside the building, the Giants believe they got back excellent value, fortified with the way Peppers and Lawrence blossomed this year under the direction of defensive coordinator Patrick Graham and his staff — a stark upgrade from the coaching in 2019. Ximines after an encouraging rookie year (4.5 sacks) played in only four games this season and is on injured reserve following shoulder surgery.
Beckham? We’re getting to him.
Is there any way to be fair here when adding up the plusses and minuses, given Beckham’s physical breakdown?
The Giants were concerned that Beckham as a finely tuned athlete might not age well, given he missed four games as a rookie in 2014 with a hamstring issue and 12 games in 2017 after fracturing his ankle. Those concerns are now flashpoints for the Browns. Beckham played in all 16 games in 2019, his first in Cleveland, and had 74 receptions for 1,035 yards and only four touchdowns. After the season, he underwent surgery on his abdomen and groin.
This season, Beckham went down in Week 6 when he ripped up his left knee. The torn ACL, at 28 years old, puts into question whether Beckham will ever be the impact player he was with the Giants. It is the third major surgery in four years for Beckham. He made the Pro Bowl in his first three years; will he ever make another one?
“They don’t speed up when this happens,” Shonka said. “He may come on and be a good receiver, but I don’t think he’ll be one of the top-10 receivers in the league. These younger guys, they’ll pass him by. Beckham’s old news, he might be able to be a good piece if he just goes out and plays and stops worrying about everything else.”
The Giants are thrilled with Peppers, 24, and Lawrence, 23, and, at this point, it would be shocking if both players did not receive second contracts. Peppers’ fifth-year option for $6.8 million was already picked up. Lawrence has two more years remaining on his deal as relatively cheap labor — $1.7 million in 2021 and $2.3 million in 2022.
Peppers’ versatility fits perfectly with the multiple schemes Graham puts on the field, allowing Peppers to accumulate a career-high 2.5 sacks while amassing 74 tackles (third on the team) and improving his coverage efficiency. Plus, he is the emotional, hard-edged performer the Giants need on their roster.
Lawrence at 342 pounds chasing after Kyler Murray last week was a sight the Giants got a kick out of seeing, as it shows how nimble the big man can be. With 40 tackles and three sacks, Lawrence is a perfect complement to Leonard Williams, and the Giants see Lawrence as an ascending player with tremendous upside.
“Honestly, I don’t hear too much about the trade, more like the guys that played with him said they liked him and they hated to see him get traded away,” Lawrence said. “I throw in a joke like, ‘Hey, that was for me!’ It’s never like, ‘We traded Odell for you,’ it’s never like that.”
Teammates enjoyed being around Beckham, but the coaching staff and front office grew tired of all the distractions. Giants brass noticed how Beckham last January made a spectacle of himself — and got himself banned from his alma mater — after LSU won the national championship and Beckham was throwing cash around the locker room. Giants brass noticed when Beckham last week went on the “All Things Considered’’ podcast, ripped former head coach Pat Shurmur and stood by his criticism of Eli Manning.
The Giants also noticed the Browns were largely dysfunctional on offense in 2019 and that this year they took off only after Beckham was lost for the season.
“[Baker] Mayfield’s a better player when he’s not having to talk Odell Beckham off the ledge trying to get him his looks and touches,” former NFL quarterback and current ESPN analyst Greg McElroy said earlier this season.
It is not as if the Giants seamlessly moved on from Beckham. They lack any semblance of passing-game dynamism and their most glaring need on offense is a playmaking receiver.
Not long after Dave Gettleman took over as general manager, he signed Beckham to a five-year $90 million extension and later said, “We didn’t sign Odell to trade him.” Thirteen days later he shipped him out, dropping $16 million in dead money on the 2019 salary cap. So, it is not as if it was a clean break.
But it is a break, and the Giants are thankful about it.
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